Our songs are all written, we’ve been practicing to get them as close to perfect as we can, and rehearsals have gone well. It’s time to get these songs on a CD! After many delays, we’re finally rolling.

We’re recording at Colorado Sound, which is the premier recording facility in the state. Grammy nominated and gold records have been recorded there, and we have as our engineer one of the best guys around. Steve Avedis has worked with the likes of Kenny Rogers, Tony Bennett (Gold Record Awarded), Edwin McCain and NSYNC, to name just a few. Joining us for this recording are two of the best rhythm section musicians in Colorado: bassist Blake Eberhard and drummer/percussionist Christian Teele. For starters, we booked the studio from 10 am until 8 pm on Tuesday, March 8 and 9 am to 4 pm on Wednesday the 9th.

March 8, 2005

  9:30 am – All our gear is in the car for our two day camping trip to Colorado Sound. We’ve brought food as well, so that we don’t have to stop for lunch right away. The recording studio is very comfortable. There are comfy couches, a fridge, coffee maker with whole beans and a grinder (very important!) and a plentiful candy dish. We brought along fruit, cheese, and banana bread to provide protein energy. When we get there Christian has already been there for half an hour setting up his drums. Micing the drums takes a while, because each drum gets its own mic. There are mics for the cymbals, bass drum, snare, toms, and each one has to be placed so it picks up the best sounds.

As each one of us gets there we set up our equipment and Steve gets to work figuring out the best mic placement for each instrument. The type of microphone as well as its placement affects the sound quality. Sometimes it takes a long time to get this right, but Steve’s got it down, and we’re ready to start recording after only a couple of hours.

11:30 am – Roll tape (figuratively speaking, as we’re recording digitally)! We are approaching this recording differently than any of our other recordings. What we’ve done previously is track each instrument individually beginning with Tom’s guitar tracks. Then we add on top of that the rhythm section. When that’s to everyone’s satisfaction Josie records the violin part. This time we want to capture the energy of playing together, so we’ve decided to record “live”. Each of us is in a different room, so that our parts are isolated. We can see each other through windows so the communication of live performance is captured. If everybody is happy with their performance but one of us makes a mistake they can re-record their part without making everyone else do their’s over.

3:00 pm – Everything’s going really smoothly and we’re having a great time. I thought by now we would stop for a real meal, but everyone’s running on coffee, fruit, and banana bread so we decide to keep going. Everyone is listening to what’s going on through headphones. Each song sounds a little different and we have to ask Steve to make adjustments in our headphone mixes. When everyone is comfortable we record. Our recording rhythm has settled into one run through of each song to get the feel of it, then we record. The first time is usually okay, but we always think maybe another try will be better. Each time we are in agreement that the second one is a keeper. Then we take off the headphones and go into the control room to hear how it sounds through speakers. Each of us writes down things we’d like to fix in our parts. We are recording this digitally with ProTools, which is a recording program on a computer. It kind of works like a word processing document. If we don’t like the sound of a part we can redo that section, kind of like rewriting a sentence.

  We usually start with Blake and he “punches in” (re-records a note or a section as the track is replayed) any parts he doesn’t like. This can get really time consuming if you’re working with people who have to fix a lot of stuff. Studio time is not cheap, and we’re paying by the hour. Blake is terrific, and doesn’t need to fix much. Neither does Christian; I think he fixed one spot all day. Tom does his guitar parts next.

Another nifty trick that we can do with ProTools is to copy and paste a section. If Tom plays a section twice, but stumbles on one of them, we can copy the good one and paste it over the stumble. Then Josie fixes her spots, mostly with the auto-tune function. This is new since we last recorded, and it’s great! If a note is little out, the computer finds where it’s supposed to be, kind of like spell-check. Like spell-check figuring out what word you meant to use, you have to at least be close to the right note. If it’s so bad that the computer can’t figure out what you meant it doesn’t work.

The new technology is great, but you have to have a good product to begin with. Just like a word processing program can help you make your writing be its best, but it can’t turn everything you write into Pulitzer material. The recording industry has used methods like these before, but digital technology makes it much easier and more accurate.8:00 pm – We’ve gotten a good start today, the rough tracks for five songs are done. Our goal is to get the rhythm tracks done and then we can fix any violin or guitar parts later if necessary.

March 9, 2005

9:00 am – We’re back! Feels like we never left. After recording one more electric violin song, it’s on to the acoustic violin. Josie’s violin is very bright, and it takes Steve and Josie an hour and six microphones to find the sound they like. Since everything else is still set up from yesterday we can get going. We settle back into our work rhythm quickly. Before we know it, it’s 4:00 and our time’s up. We still have two songs to go, each song takes an average of two hours to record.

  We knew that this was just the beginning and that we’ll have to come back a few more times. We are scheduled to come back on March 28. In the mean time, Tom will practice the lead guitar parts he wants to overdub. Christian will record some percussion parts at his home studio and we’ll be able to upload it at Colorado Sound. Josie and Tom will listen repeatedly to see if there’s anything that needs to be redone.

Photos by Tom Carleno and Josie Quick